The winter will be strange and difficult. It will be longer than usual … and it will be cold.
I mean that in a broader sense than just the weather. We have watched those close to us hitch their ideology onto a wagon that was either right or left of center — and that wagon sped off toward an extremist pole, whether that person realized it or not. The middle ground between Republican and Democrat is, in the case of many people we know personally, a gulf.
In metro cities, demonstrations erupt almost every time a police department releases body-cam footage of a Black man being shot, armed or unarmed, legally or illegally, to death or to injury. Far-right groups like the Proud Boys continue to strategically and opportunistically waste police resources for reasons no one can quite divine. We collectively can’t determine or agree on what is or isn’t an organization, a movement or whatever else have you. The internet encourages anonymity, a thing that bleeds into these demonstrations wrought with sporadic violence. The entire business is ominous.
Do Black lives matter? Yes. But the phrase is so widespread, becoming categorically informational, that it can’t be trademarked with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The result is independent cells “representing” different regions in the country — the chapter in Hattiesburg, for instance, which went from representing South Mississippi to claiming the entire state. Put simply, any yahoo can get such a group going. Any. Slap BLM onto your war banner and scores will back you up, even if you’re effectively diluting an idea that could have been a good one. A group profiting off the backs of the dead through donations and T-shirt sales, without actually contributing anything, doesn’t represent any progressive idea. The Mississippi group is simply co-opting and coercing. To use more common terms, many would call it virtue signaling.
My working theory is that the people who started that group had good intentions, and those who came after just like to yell at their computers.
The journalism world, my world, feels intense. Mark and I are set to tolerate political tongue lashings on any given day. The discourse can be frustrating and psychologically brutal, especially when people who would have stood with me a year ago would now automatically assume I’m a fascist. That’s fine, because screw it. They’re just words.
Despite so many people leaning into extreme political poles while leaving no room for unity, we are all still united in a sense. We are all under the discerning eye of the future’s history books. Kids in classrooms 50 and 100 years from now will read about us, the pandemic, the riots, George Floyd, Apple, Amazon, Trump, Biden, Black Lives Matter, the Middle East, the 2020 election.
When we are all dead, kids will watch old videos of us getting kicked out of Laurel City Council because we wanted to act like buffoons and disrupt government proceedings. Yes, we. We won’t be remembered as individuals. We’ll be remembered as a collective, as the products of an era. Generally, Black Lives Matter will be regarded as a second-wave Civil Rights movement, whether its independent cells were right or not. Political subcultures made of teens and 20-somethings will rise and fall too quickly for anyone to keep track of them, more quickly than they do now. Democratic ideals will become meaningless as the left’s in-fighting devolves into a multitude of fractured political sub-parties. In the near future, if more Democrats take office, their intent will be good in a solely performative sense, though their actions will reflect a dangerous naivety.
Consider the inconsistencies you can observe right now: many who would call for defunding police departments campaign for Kamala Harris, a former district attorney. Harris in 2009 said more police should be on the streets. She said in 2020 that putting more police on the streets is “status-quo thinking.” This is not to say that changing viewpoints over the years is necessarily hypocritical. But Democrats are consistently inconsistent, such as when Hillary Clinton turns a 180 on LGBTQ rights only as soon as it benefits her.
I’m pointing this out for my fellow millennials who think their political party is infallible. Because it isn’t. Politicians are people. They don’t have anyone’s best interest in mind except their own. And screw every broadcast network trying to push the election one way or the other. To them I say: put the facts out there and let the people decide. That’s the only right way to report on the election.
I repeat: your party is flawed. While I know many of you will turn your nose up at the idea, at least keep it in the back of your mind for when Biden, Harris and the rest of them inevitably fail you. So will any Republican. It is under that umbrella that we are all united, so we should treat each other with respect and dignity, up to the point where those on the attack are legitimately unhinged. The people we love are too valuable to us to dismiss as fascists or communists. I’ll tell you what team I bat for: my family, my friends here at work, the people who would respect me even if we disagree on fundamentals.
One might question my agenda here. I’m not putting this out there to sway voters either way. My point is that the lords of this land, claiming from their ivory towers to be fighting for you, are only truly fighting to control you.
For the radical left or right: Listen. There are approximately 7 billion different types of people on this planet. Some of those people have created real problems. Pedophiles, racists, rapists, human traffickers, first- and third-world slavers, heroin dealers — including whatever piece of human garbage sold my dad a fatal dose of heroin five years ago. Someone will inevitably decry straw-man arguments here. But my point is that there is more in this world than left, right, Proud Boys, BLM and the like. Internet soldiers are getting pissed off at precisely the wrong things, like political correctness and ensuring we all agree on any given arbitrary topic. The guys fighting actual Nazis in World War II probably weren’t worried whether calling someone a “Nazi son of a b*tch” was a gendered slur. Yes, police brutality against Black men and crooked cops are all unjust bullcrap that needs fixing. (And we know some things about crooked cops.) Canceling just anyone? Getting mad that there aren’t at least five Black authors on your syllabus? C’mon.
We’ve gotta be better toward each other. We’ve gotta be kind. Years ago, right before I was 21, I gave a lift to a crack user, name of Leon, who offered to buy me beer in exchange for getting him to his dealer. He gave me some simple and effective advice: Be kind to others. All we have are those we give our love to. And in this weird time, I suggest we all just roll with the weirdness without submitting to it; said Hunter S. Thompson, “Tune in, freak out, get beaten.”
This winter will be strange and difficult. It will be longer than usual. And it will be cold.
Jack Hammett is a Leader-Call reporter. Email him at email@example.com.